Developing a mobile app for your business can be time-consuming and expensive, and if you already have a responsive website, you may wonder if it’s even necessary.

For many businesses, the decision of whether or not to develop an app or just stick with the responsive site depends on their specific customers, needs and objectives.

For many businesses, the right choice is having both a mobile app and a responsive website.

“Mobile is taking over desktop: the number of mobile users and time spent on mobile are seeing constant growth,” according to Ian Blair of BuildFire. At the same time, according to Blair, it can be intimidating for a lot of businesses to take on an app-building project.

So what should you know if you’re weighing the differences between an app and a responsive site?

What Can You Get With a Responsive Site?

With a responsive site, you will have some features that can be accessed via a browser as with any other website. A responsive site is more than just one that can be viewed on a mobile device in a smaller format, however. It needs to have certain features that ensure it’s optimized on a mobile device.

Some things to know about a responsive site include:

  • It’s available to everyone without any specific installations or downloads
  • It’s fairly easy to fix issues that may occur with a responsive site
  • Having a mobile-responsive website is typically significantly less expensive than developing an app

The design of a responsive site is based on something called CSS media queries, which is what it allows it to fit ideally on mobile screens.

What Is a Mobile App?

You probably have some idea of what a mobile app is and how it works, but maybe you don’t know as much about the development process or what really goes into an app. Overall an app is something that can be downloaded and installed on a mobile device including a tablet or smartphone. There are also native app designs, which can be somewhat like a hybrid with a website.

Apps have a very distinctive set of functions and a unique user experience that’s separate from the website of a business. A lot of businesses see mobile apps as more of a way to work with existing customers and keep them engaged because most new customers aren’t going to immediately download an app.

The Pros and Cons of Only Having Responsive Web Design

The benefits of having only a responsive website and no app are primarily centered on time and cost. The process to launch a mobile can be lengthy.

The cost of responsive web design is also going to be significantly less expensive than building a custom app in most cases.

There are downsides of only having a responsive site. First, they just don’t have the level of functionality that a mobile app has. There are a lot of features and different tools that a mobile app have that a responsive website can’t. It can also be time-consuming for people to navigate through a website, while an app might provide them with a better user experience.

The Pros and Cons of Mobile Apps

Apps tend to have an excellent level of functionality because of their custom design, and they can often support different features and tools that a site can’t. Mobile apps are incredibly efficient, and they typically have faster loading times than website pages because they don’t have a lot of additional elements as a site does.

Apps are excellent for continuing engagement with your customers, and they are good for brand awareness because they’re so much in front of them at all times. Most people are attached to their mobile devices at nearly all times, and apps take advantage of that relationship with technology.

At the same time, along with being costly to develop, an app needs to be well-done. If you introduce an app that’s not well done, it can significantly tarnish your brand and your reputation. That’s important with the discerning nature of most customers. What it often comes down to for businesses that are trying to decide between a website optimized for mobile use or an app is cost, and how much they’re willing to invest in the project. If a business does have the resources necessary for app development, then in most cases it is best for them to have both. If you have both, you’re giving your customers and users choices to interact and connect with your brand in the way that is best for them.